Why writing a Broadway musical is like going on a road trip to Disney World.

As you all know, I’m out in Portland right now for the very first production of Somewhere in Time.  Audiences are loving the show and we even got nominated for a bunch of the local Portland Musical Theatre Awards last week!

But honestly, kudos and ovations are not why we’re here.   We’re here because we want to be somewhere else in the not so distant future (somewhere that rhymes with Schmoadway) . . . and that means the Authors (of which I am one) are watching each and every moment in front of that audience to see where we can improve the story telling, enhance the experience, and make the entire show even more of a thrill ride.

While Authors can learn a lot in table reads and workshops, the most learning comes when the show is in front of a live, paying audience, with full costumes, lights, scenery and more.  That’s when the game is truly on.

I learned something over the weekend about our musical, which caused me to make a quick change (which in my opinion helped us take another leap forward), which I think applies to all musicals, so I thought I’d share it here.

When you were a kid, and you were on your way to Disney, or Wet ‘n Wild, or any place you were amped up to go . . . what was the last thing you wanted to do?  Stop at a rest stop for 20 minutes.  Right?  You wanted to get there.  Who cares if Dad needed a quick power nap.  Or Mom needed to pee.  Or your little brother was throwing up all over his Power Rangers blanket.  You just wanted to get back on the road and get there, in the quickest and most efficient way possible.

Over the weekend, I noticed that a very short scene I wrote in Somewhere in Time was a rest stop.  While sure, it was setting up a moment that would occur later on in the show (and an important one), the scene was slowing down the pace of getting to where the audience wanted to go.  And I realized that I could accomplish the same thing with one line . . . and with the mere appearance of the character on the stage (something you can’t see as well when you’re writing on a computer or in a reading).

So I cut the scene.  And we kept the audience on the journey even more.

Musicals have to be efficient.  A lot of story telling is usually tucked into those two to two and a half hours, and you can’t afford rest stops along the way, nor can you afford letting your audience’s excitement level wane.

Sure, Mom will still need to pee.  And Dad needs a nap.  And even I need a Kit Kat to tide me over.

But that’s what intermissions are for.


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  • Keni F says:

    Good analogy (although after reading the book “Finding Florida” -about the darker reality beneath all the glitz & marketing- you might never feel quite the same about the Disney World reference…)

  • Scott Briefer says:

    You just combined, Broadway and Disney World in one blog entry. Two of my favorite things. Wow!

    I am such a fan.

    Congratulations on getting your production mounted and here’s to the road trip back home and to BROADWAY!!!

  • I’ve learned that of course you’ll cut the weak stuff — but when you start cutting good stuff, you’re making art.

  • Ilene Argento says:

    I hope you take it to Schmoadway too! I truly like the way you think, Ken. You have mastered art with reception with audience analysis! Clearly you’ve done this before!

  • Paula says:

    Eagerly anticipating George Street and Broadway.

  • Katherine says:

    Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

  • Kevin McMullan says:

    Wish you the best of luck with this show. Thank you so much for this particular post. Whereas I’m not currently writing a play I am writing a book and the “rest stop” image is a very helpful metaphor to remind one not to fall too much in love with anything one writes. It’s no longer “Do you really need this here” (which of course I always do) – It’s “Do you want to “Stop” here – which I usually don’t. Makes a big difference.

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